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Evolution in Education


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Evolution in Education
Topic: Science 10:14 am EST, Nov 27, 2004

Imagine two people standing about 500 feet from a car that is against wall around a bend. One is holding binoculars, the other a piece of paper. One looks through his binoculars at the car and says, "Someone was driving that car too fast, skidded out, and slammed into the wall."

The other person says, "I don't believe that, the police report says that it was placed there by God."

"I know that the report says that, but I can pretty clearly see skid marks on the road, the car is smashed, the windows shattered, and there is broken glass on the road."

"I don't necessarily agree. I see what you mean about the marks, but they don't look that clear to me. I am also not sure that the stuff on the road is glass. To me it looks like it could be water. Besides, I believe Officer Joe, he is a good man."

"I know that Officer Joe is honest, but I think he is mistaken. Through my binoculars it looks pretty clear that the car was driven into the wall. It looks like a man drove it there, the skid marks are clear, that is definitely say that the stuff on the road is broken glass and not water. I also think I see the man's head leaning against the steering column. It looks to me like an accident."

"That is fine. It is just your opinion though. I believe the report that God put it there. You know, binoculars often produce optical distortions, there is no such thing as a perfectly accurate lens. In addition, you aren't entirely sure about the man's head, it may not be that there is a man in the car, you said that you aren't sure. If there is not a man in the car, then how could it have gotten there? The police report says it was placed there by God, and if no one was driving it..."

"Ok, ok, I know about distortions and all, but I use these binoculars all the time and I know what is and is not a distortion. Besides, to say that the car was put there by God just sounds a little..."

"A little what?"

"I mean, come on. The car was driven into the wall. This is a stupid argument. I can see that..."

"Can you see the driver?"

"Well I can sort of make out..."

"No, you can't say for sure. But you are calling me stupid. Why can't you admit that you have your opinion and that I have mine?"


If you are a scientist, this is what the creationist argument looks like. The scientist isn't smarter or better than the other person, he just has a set of mathematical and instrumental tools, the binoculars, that he is skilled at using with knowledge of their limitations.

With the techniques of modern biology, the evolution argument is about that obvious. The scientist sees an incredible amount of evidence that people descended from primates. Just like in the metaphor, the creationist seems to be lacking binoculars. The only difference is that in reality the toolset is differential equations, statistics, technology, chemistry, and complex instrumentation. Unfortunately, this is not something that can just be handed over to the creationist.

A poster from another board named Jiml8 was right when he said that we need better education. Kids need to do science that involves real math and become convinced of some elementary results, and not just see a parade of concepts. Otherwise it look like two conflicting police reports. The reality is that it is not two conflicting reports, it is one report versus the way it really looks when viewed with an effective set of tools. Kids need to do science until they gain an understanding of the power of the method. They need to see that the method is not just one possible form of inquiry, it is reasoned inquiry itself.

It may be unsettling, and it may be impossible to refute the idea that everything sprung into existence looking this way 6000 years ago. However, that argument just looks plainly absurd when the situation is really observed well. No matter what really happened, no matter what miracle may have occured, it is clear that everything looks almost exactly as if evolution has been occuring for millions of years and that the process of evolution is continuing today.

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